Thursday, September 11, 2014

Giving

Last night, I heard an older, wiser priest say that in his ministry, he's seen two blocks to the work of the Holy Spirit:  unwillingness to forgive, and unwillingness to give.

I've thought about the need for forgiveness to clear blockages in our lives before, so my mind instantly went to his point about giving. As I held it up before the Lord, wondering if there was something He wanted to unblock there, or a ministry He wanted us to give to...I was surprised to hear Him say, "You're doing it already. It's your house."

I guess it's apparent to my readers that I've been wrestling all summer with the decision we made to buy this house, and I'm still holding it up before the Lord. I know we bought the house He indicated. I know we are exactly where He wants us; I've received confirmation after confirmation. It's just that I wouldn't have picked a house that needed this much work, especially when we're not the handy types who can do stuff ourselves. (Although Papa Rooster did actually take apart the framing around a pocket door last week to get it back on track, which was a project of several hours, and it's almost as good as new, except for the shrieking the door makes as you close it the last four inches or so. It's our early warning system, telling us when the half bath is occupied.)

I felt God asking me to view the money we're investing in this home differently, to see it as an investment in a ministry He has prepared for us. Among other things, it's a ministry of hosting and hospitality, which we've always done, no matter where we've lived. We've often had college students live with us, especially back in our Illinois home, and right now, we have a young man living in our basement. On Saturday, we ended up hosting a meeting of 16 leaders here, when our reservation on a room at the Kemper Center got bumped. It worked out so beautifully, I was amazed!

This house also seems like it's a place that ministers all by itself. The view alone soothes the soul. Every day Lake Michigan looks so different; it reminds me of the infinite creativity of God. But the house itself has a warmth and a peace that is palpable. A neighborhood teen, a friend of the young man living in our basement, visited us for the first time one night, and he said to me, "You know, your house is a warm house. I noticed it when I was here for the estate sale. It has a very warm feel to it." He's not the only one that's made similar comments, but it was interesting because he didn't know our family, and he sensed it in the house before we ever moved into it.

I have to admit that I get concerned about appearances, though. Investing in my own home doesn't look like sacrificial giving; I get to benefit by living in a spacious and beautiful place. But I would gladly have bought the tiny cottage two streets over! For my frugal personality, it's hard to spend money on myself. I can gladly write checks to missions, but to have to write a large check for a roof--just a small roof, at that!--just for maintenance; there's nothing that feels like ministry about that. The Lord also knows how much I'd prefer the security of money in the bank, not invested in a house. But He's saying, "Trust me for the future. I'm asking you to view your home as something more than a place for your family to live. This is My work, and I want you to invest freely in it. Do not fear the judgments of others. I understand how this is a sacrifice for you."

It was my idea to sell our old house and downsize, so we could more easily live on less. It was practical. It's what we needed to do, if we were going to transition to a full-time pastor's salary and have some financial security. It was an old and dear friend, a priest who visited us from another state, who challenged us, ""But did God tell you to downsize? Maybe God doesn't want you to downsize." And he was right. God asked us to do something that, for me, was even harder.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Summer's End (Back to School)

It all starts today:  public school, our classical homeschooling co-op, the worship school and theater classes!

So here's the quick low-down for the school year.

The two oldest are not going to school, but working. B23 continues to work a couple shifts a week at a dollar store. He's not fast at unpacking boxes, but he's faithful to arrive at work at 5 a.m.! Blondechick21 just finished a summer of nannying for an attorney she knows from church, who invited her to come work part-time at her law firm this fall. She's hoping there will be enough filing and data entry to turn into a full-time position there! She's the only one not living at home; she's staying with a couple from our church who are graciously renting their second floor to her. It's a charming space, with alcoves and swing out windows, with views of lovely gardens in the neighbor's yard. If the bathroom weren't in the basement with the spiders and other creepy crawlies, it would be perfect. ;)

B19 is going to the School of Worship--the same school that Blondechick went to last year. It was such a rich year of discipleship and mentoring for her, and it seems like B19's class is going to be another great group of students. He anticipates lots of "bro time"--13 out of the 25 students are guys! He'll be in class from 8 to 3:30 daily--a big time commitment.

B15 will begin his sophomore year at the public high school. He's excited to be in Chorale this year--the school's top choir--and in Madrigals again. He took driver's ed this summer and has his permit, but  we are not sure about letting him get his license when he turns 16 in February--can't afford a sixth driver on our policy! We are hoping the two oldest can get some more hours at work and be able to start paying for their portion. Meanwhile, he has a ride to and from school with a neighbor who's a senior--a blessing that will net him several more hours of sleep a week compared to taking the bus.

Chicklet-almost-12 will be homeschooled again this year, but B9 is going to go to the local elementary school. We are in the same high school district in our new location, but it's a different elementary and middle school; the middle school has a terrible reputation, but the elementary school is outstanding, we hear. As I prayed about this year, I kept feeling a nudge from the Lord to put him there. 

It wasn't an easy decision, because I am excited about our next year with our homeschooling co-op! We were a Classical Conversations community last year, but to have more flexibility with what we do, we decided to become a co-op instead. We are still using the CC curriculum, with some modifications, but we are free to adjust the schedule, teachers and class sizes as we like. I'm especially eager to tweak the grammar and writing portion that I teach to 4th - 6th graders, to make the material more engaging, to focus on grammar usage as much or more than on memory work, and to include some more enjoyable writing assignments.

B9 has friends in the co-op too, which is the main reason why he didn't want to go to school. But I have a feeling that I'm going to be pretty distracted with house projects, at least for the fall, and I'm afraid I just won't have much patience or energy to sit with him and make sure he does his work. It's very tempting to delegate that task to someone else! Also Chicklet will get more done without him around, and she needs to have a good year, being in sixth grade, her first year of middle school. On the other hand, he will have homework, and there will be school communications and deadlines to stay on top of, and lunches to make and pay for, and all those things add up to a big chunk of time also.

I had trouble sorting out all the pros and cons, but couldn't get away from the feeling that it might just be a good thing for him to go. It will probably be more of a challenge for him than what I would be able to commit to providing this year, and I think he'll benefit from being pushed by someone other than me. A little positive peer pressure never hurt either, and he's quite social. We met his teacher and saw his classroom, and now he's pretty excited to start. We'll see how it goes!


Friday, August 29, 2014

This Week's Project

So. There is a newish roof on the main part of the house, but this balcony had some issues, we knew.





First the railing came down...and yesterday the roof came up!


It's a good thing we decided to go ahead and take care of it before winter, the roofer said. It was pretty wet underneath the tin.


A big pile of rusty tin roof!



They cleaned and dried everything, then put down a new layer of fiberboard.


Then new roofing material rolled out over that, and the seams were heated and melted together.


Since the balcony was in deep shade when they finished, I thought I'd wait to get a nice sunny picture of the new roof in the morning. But it's raining! Guess we got the new roof on just in time.


The new white metal railing will be installed next week; then the roofers will come back and lay flashing around each post to make sure all is water-tight.

The roof is an extra-thick rubber membrane with gritty sand-like stones as a top layer. It's fine to walk on and put patio furniture on, and hopefully light enough in color that it won't be too hot. We'll probably get an indoor/outdoor area rug or two, next spring, plus we'll need some more chairs. Always something!

But so glad we did it now.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Yes, But How Are You?

It has been a stressful summer.

Sold a house--very emotional and grief-filled.

Lived with friends--fabulously wonderful! (More on that.)

Bought a house--also very emotional, and a decision that was--and continues to be--faith-stretching.

Trying to get settled in new house--hasn't been easy. We keep getting distracted by house projects--floors, plumbing, kitchen, have to do something about the chimney and the tin roof/balcony--and can't seem to get unpacked. Plus some rooms don't exist yet--where do we put those belongings now?

So how am I doing, really?

And the answer is...

I feel quite well, considering everything. Though I am easily overwhelmed with all there is to do, I can only do what I can do in a day, and the rest can wait till tomorrow. We have the whole church coming over for a house blessing on Sunday afternoon. We still have boxes everywhere, and piles of stuff that I don't know where to put or haven't had time to sort, but it's okay. The house can be blessed, friends can visit and rejoice with us, and I'm not hiding the fact that this is my life right now!

Although the summer's events have been emotionally draining and I am mentally and physically very tired, I am buoyed up by a strong sense of rightness about it all. So many little confirmations make me believe that God is leading us down this path. It's been a rocky, uneven path, with overgrowth that we have to stop and clear away at points, but He keeps beckoning us to keep following, even with the occasional smiling reminder that He never promised it would be an easy path, but that it would be worth it in the end. He's used so many people to confirm and encourage us.

Here's one example--the friends who invited us to live with them while we didn't have a house. It ended up to be about 7 weeks total, and those weeks exactly coincided with the wife's recovery period from a sudden and serious abdominal surgery. She wasn't allowed to drive or go to work, and as a strong extrovert, it would have been a very difficult time for her. In her own words:

Your family's presence saved me from the loneliness and false sense of uselessness that would have hit me hard during my convalescence had it just been [my husband] and me.  You also saved him from being overwhelmed by having to meet all of his wife's needs for socializing.  Although he has never complained of being overwhelmed by me, I think I could have approached the limit.  When I was home on maternity leave with [her son], I became a garrulous maniac that made store clerks run the other way - really!  God was definitely providing for everyone.

For our family, staying with this couple felt like several weeks in a vacation condo with them! They have a beautiful, large, restful home. Our kids loved their dog, their neighborhood, their jokes and their food. They both love to cook, so every day we'd make meal plans early enough for someone to pick up groceries, and then we'd all help chop, prep, bake and/or grill. The husband is a massage therapist, so we took advantage of his conveniently located office (in the next room over from our bedroom), and the wife is a psychologist, which made our mealtime conversations extra-stimulating. The two husbands began most days with morning prayer together, and the wife and I have one of those friendships where we never, ever, run out of things to talk about, so it was fabulous for us both to have so much free time at the same time. Our time there was such a gift, and the timing was a strong confirmation that we had done the right thing to sell our old house when we did.

Another huge stressor this summer has been a situation at church. It has paralleled our move in some ways--emotionally draining, filled with grief, and faith-stretching. It's been the same kind of rocky, uneven, obstacle-ridden path, but God has been continually sending us the encouragements to hang in there. People we've been praying for have started coming to church, have started asking the right questions about their relationship with God, are being transformed in huge ways! Visitors have come--and come back! There has been a new freedom in our worship and in individual expression and gifting. This Sunday, one of our disabled youths is giving the sermon!, in partnership with an elder. There have been so many encouraging things alongside the challenges.

So I am well. Exhausted, but well. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 comes to mind:  "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

The previous verse also applies:  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

It is the Lord who is sustaining me, empowering me, working through me and encouraging me!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gift

It's funny to me that I ended my last post with a paragraph about how this house feels like a gift. "Gift" is on my mind again today, but with a whole different set of thoughts, so I'm glad I already gave some context last time!

I was speaking to the Lord this morning about His gift, and wondering if He knew that it would require a good bit of maintenance. I suspect that He did, but one can't help but have a few mixed feelings about a gift house when one is expecting a plumber for the sixth workday in a row. At what point is it okay to look a gift house in the mouth? ;)

So we had this tiny leak in the basement. Just a few drops. It would get a little worse, then seem to dry up. We had plumbers here giving us quotes on the third floor attic project, and one of them spent a little time looking into it and gave us his free opinion that it must be the second floor shower drain. Probably the pan under the drain was made of lead--typical of an old house--and typically they crack.

He didn't get back to us about actually doing the work, so we called a friend's cousin that we used before in our old house. He came over and agreed that could be it, but he suggested we gamble that the lead pan was replaced in the 60's when the bathrooms were updated, and instead we try the much cheaper option of resealing the grout, which needed to be done anyway.

That didn't stop the leak, but in the process, he figured out it couldn't be the pan. It looked like it might be a bad pipe, though, so it would be a simple fix to just replace it--very accessible, right there in the ceiling of the basement.

Okay, I wasn't home for this part, but the pipe?  It was a boiler pipe, not a plumbing pipe. Oops. It began to shoot out water and awful black sludge that had built up in the system that we never would have known about otherwise. They had to move boxes and stuff in a hurry and they ruined a couple of my towels, but hey, in a plumbing emergency, who's going to call their wife and ask where the old towels are, right? (I've been rehearsing this regularly as part of my forgiveness process. :)

Anyway, it was a providential mistake in the end, because it meant we got the bad pipe replaced and the boiler flushed out too. But the plumber was stymied as to what was causing the leak. He found a sink drain problem in the half bath that needed attention, but it wasn't causing the leak. He finally had to open up a wall to see what was going on. Yes, he had to cut a hole--not one but two, as it turned out--in my 111-year-old plaster dining room wall. I couldn't watch. At least our new access panel will be covered up by bookshelves for the foreseeable future.

But there was nothing! Everything was bone dry where he expected to see water damage.

So they moved the fridge again, because the leak was directly under it, just to contemplate--and this time, they noticed a tiny bit of dampness around a crack in the vinyl tile underneath it. A little digging revealed that the subfloor underneath was completely rotten. It appeared that the fridge might be leaking, but we couldn't feel or see any water coming from it. Our plumber feared one last possibility--that "some redneck plumber" may have put plumbing where it didn't belong, under the lower cabinets. Since we were about to put in a new floor, he had to rule out that possibility, so he cut a little hole to investigate that and found no pipes. It had to be the fridge. (Later, after it was pulled out, it began leaking in earnest. It was nice to know for sure, finally!)

And that is why I had to buy a new refrigerator and a new floor. To put in the new floor, he had to move the 50-year-old stove out, and he begged me to just buy a new one already, especially since the warming oven above the stove didn't work. But I knew if I bought a new stove, I also had to buy a new range hood or a microwave to put in the gap where the old warming oven had been, so I resisted for awhile. Our renovating budget was supposed to go to the third floor project, not the kitchen! But after his dire predictions about how much it would cost to fix the old oven and how much longer it would last (not long), I gave in. God must want me to have new appliances.

Fridge, microwave, stove--check. I picked it all out in about 15 minutes, based on price, size--there were only about 3 refrigerators that would fit in our space--and the sales guy's recommendations. It all happened too fast. I had looked forward to planning my new kitchen! I thought I'd have lots of time to read appliance reviews and play around with ideas for the floor, countertops, backsplash and wall paint color. I've gotten better at winging it in many areas of my life, but I still enjoy planning, so I struggled with feeling a little out of sorts about the whole thing. I went to bed exhausted, worried that my quick decisions would not be good ones, wondering what God was doing with the rearrangement of priorities and refusing to think about the plumber's bill.

As it turns out, I'm thrilled with my appliances and my floor, and the plumber, an acquaintance who has become a friend after six days in our home, practically donated most of his services. Another gift!

In the midst of all this, I got a note from a friend who had spend a Sunday afternoon with us recently. She wrote, "Now I can see why God gave you guys that house. As we were driving away, our daughter said, "I never wanted to leave that deck." She spoke for all of us. You both have such a miraculous gift of hospitality--and I can't imagine any better setting for it. The wide Lake Michigan vista backdrop and the sheltered "secret garden" backyard--the vast and the protected together-- the two archetypes that speak most deeply to my heart, and I imagine I'm not alone. And I can't think of anyone who would use it better than your family."

Another friend, not normally a guy who speaks this way, told us in the midst of all the plumbing problems (and getting disappointing news and quotes on other work that needs to be done) that we should not let ourselves be discouraged, that we should still believe in God's purposes for us in this house.

Between the two of them and the Lord speaking to my own heart, I'm in a good place again. Even though the time spend on the kitchen set me back another week in the unpacking--and we scheduled a house blessing for this weekend! There will be boxes everywhere, but I'm eager to dedicate this gift back to the Lord, for His purposes and plans.

Old fridge and flooring

New fridge, new floor

Old stove with oven above

New stove and microwave (electrical outlet for microwave to be installed soon!)


Thursday, July 24, 2014

New House

So we have a new house. :)

Yes, we are living there now. We had to wait another week after we closed on July 14, to have the floors refinished and then wait for the fumes to diminish. We still have barely any furniture moved in, though--just beds, our dining room table, a couch and various chairs.

We've been gradually getting everything we had brought with us to the garage and basement of the friends we were staying with, plus I have most of my kitchen and pantry items out of storage and mostly unpacked now. But we still have three storage units full of the rest of our stuff that we need to bring in to the house! One more week till the floors are fully cured, so we tell ourselves it's probably better to wait and not cover them with boxes yet anyway. And hey, we've already paid for the storage.

What you really want to see is pictures.

Probably not smart to post a photo here of the front of the house, but here's the back. The part under the sloped roof is the original 1903 brick Victorian. The part under the balcony is a 1965 addition. This back side of the house faces east, toward Lake Michigan.


Next we have the view from our balcony on the night we moved in. There was a Twilight Jazz concert at the bandshell, and you can even see a sailboat on the lake--it's a little white dot near the cloud line.


Our garage and back yard--


The 1965 addition. The wall on the right is brick, the original exterior wall. We did not re-do these floors--they haven't been covered by carpet and still look pretty good. 


This is the view across the front of the house, standing in the living room, looking across the foyer into the dining room. That's a smaller foyer leading to the front door, to the left, and between it and the dining room there is a roomy closet. In this photo, the floor guys had just sanded the living room floor.

Our 111-year-old floors are old-growth Oregon fir.

Master bedroom floor before...


And after!


A few more "afters"--

Here's the finished dining room, with the original 1950's wallpaper that I'm keeping, for now!


The living room (we're keeping the blue for now)...


and the other bedrooms.

B23 will get the smallest bedroom. No wallpaper, faces the lake.

Chicklet11 and B9 are sharing this room for now. Rosebud wallpaper, faces the street.

Everybody loves the wallpaper in the bicycle room! B19 and B15 are sharing this room with a lake view for now.
In the interests of getting something posted today, I will save kitchen and bathroom photos for another post! But here are a couple shots of the attic, which has been a preoccupation lately, as we've been talking to contractors about finishing it.



We plan to put a master bedroom at this end, and a library/office for Father Rooster in the end with the stairway, with a dormer out toward the lake to create a nice seating/meeting area as well. We'll put a bathroom in the existing dormer area towards the middle, with the three low windows in the first photo above.

One last photo. While we were waiting on the floors, we had a friend pressure-wash and stain our deck!


This was taken at 9:30 a.m.--we have dappled sunlight on it almost all morning. (Isn't our neighbor's house beautiful?) We've spent a lot of time out here already.

The second floor balcony is going to be a great outdoor space as well, once we deal with the peeling paint on the tin roof; we've been consulting on that too. We think we'll cover it with plywood, a rubber membrane and indoor/outdoor carpeting. But first we'll wait for the dormer in the roof above to be completed, since they are likely to set up equipment on the balcony during construction. Dominoes!

So many dominoes! I don't want to move a lot of stuff into the basement until we have shelves set up, and I don't want to set up all the shelves until the floor is swept, and I can't sweep the floor until.... It's the same story with the garage, the mudroom and other areas I'm trying to organize.

So I'm off to organize! But first let me say how thankful I am, every morning, for the gift of this house. That word--"gift"--just keeps coming up for me, tied to the house and this whole move, in so many ways that I am still unwrapping and receiving almost daily, so to speak--it seems like there is more to this gift than I even imagined, and we are receiving gifts related to it, too. Our kids feel it too, even the ones who were the most reluctant to leave our other house, who were not excited about us buying an old house--they are falling in love with this house, the neighborhood, "Lake living," and something intangible about being here. I think it has to do with being where God wants us.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Finishing Up the School Year Strong

With all the house excitement, I‘ve neglected to post anything about the end of our school year, but it’s worth mentioning! We had two graduations—B19’s from high school, and Blondechick’s from the School of Worship. We had a nice closing program for the Classical Conversations group which Chicklet11 and B9 were in this year, in which I taught the Essentials class. B14 completed his first year of high school successfully. We had a graduation party for B19, after our move, at the house where we are staying, so that’s done. Overall, it was a good school year indeed!

B19 is our first “homeschool graduate.” I have to use quotation marks because the irony is that he really wasn’t homeschooled at all for high school. For 9th grade, he was at a Christian school. For 10th and 11th grades, he was enrolled in a public virtual school; he took two college classes as a junior as well. For his senior year, we planned for him to take two classes at the public high school and two classes at the local college, in order for him to graduate from high school with about 18 college credits. He stuck to that plan first semester, but second semester he ended up taking only one class at college so that he could add another high school “class”—an internship at an elementary school, since he’d like to become a teacher for that age group. He enjoyed those fifth graders very much!

We didn’t do the homeschool graduation ceremony, since he really wasn’t part of the homeschool group. We had an open house, and we created a diploma, although we still have to print it out and give it to him. (Minor details!) I also need to create an official transcript for his high school years, adding in all the college classes he took and also his one homeschool class—a PE credit I gave him for all of his running, lifting and working out almost daily, for the last three years. Easiest class I ever taught!
He took this lovely lady (a friend from his church) to prom on his 19th birthday!
His immediate plans are to work this summer—he seems to have a niche as a shoe salesman, working at two jobs this summer, having left his first job awhile back, but all three at shoe stores!—and then go to the School of Worship in the fall--the same nine-month program that Blondechick just graduated from. While there, he may be discerning a call into ministry as well. He had a great year helping with the Campus Life group at his high school; he's led a few kids to the Lord and prayed for scores after sharing his testimony at the Christian school he used to attend, and also at two Youth for Christ fundraising banquets. Teacher, pastor, church musician…he’ll probably end up being all of these things in church settings, but as for a career and where he’ll pursue further education, we will be praying for God’s direction during the coming school year.

Blondechick had a wonderful year at the School of Worship. She grew so much in her faith, her knowledge of Scripture, her awareness of God’s presence and voice, and in her musical abilities.  She was required to take keyboarding and music theory, and be on a worship team. She learned chords and chord structure so she could accompany her team on the keyboard, and that helped her learn songwriting as well. Now that the school has ended and she’s no longer on a regular worship team, she’s been finding joy in writing her own songs.

Blondechick performing her own song at the Songwriting Showcase


 She’s a little unsure as to what comes next for her. She doesn’t want to return to college—she has no career goal that requires a degree, she really didn’t enjoy taking classes, and the college environment was not a good one for her. She’s nannying three days a week this summer and working part-time at a law office too. She hopes to be able to afford a small apartment, and see what God has in store for her! She and B19 have been attending the church that is affiliated with the School of Worship, where there are many young people their age, and we are so thankful for the good friends, pastors and mentors they have there. God provides!

B14 had a successful year in the public school, finishing up with good grades and nice affirmation from his teachers. This past spring, he was selected to be part of an improv team that was preparing for a big competition which took place this past weekend. His team finished somewhere in the middle of the ten teams that competed, but it was a lot of fun for him.  Chicklet11 and I also enjoyed the day-long event. B14 was invited to be part of an All-Star Jazz Choir that is rehearsing and performing this summer, and this week he's at an overnight camp with our Christian theater group, which was a meaningful experience for hm last year. When he returns, he’ll start a summer PE class at the public school. We are thankful that B23 is able to help with all the driving for his activities!


 Chicklet and B9 got off easy this spring, since we were busy packing for our move. Our Classical Conversations group kept us on track through the end of April, and I was just thrilled with how much they learned this year through that program alone! After that, they had a minimum amount of reading and math to get done each morning, and we’ve been sticking to that, some days, even this summer. They have handled the move so well, and they love being at our friends' house. They've been been busy playing together happily and creatively, seeing friends, and being outside. This past week, they’ve been making movies and camping out in the backyard.

I leave you with a short video of them performing a groovy little number at the CC closing program. It was their favorite "history sentence" put to music, and Chicklet made up the choreography!

video

Monday, July 07, 2014

Not Happy With Google

Smaaack!!

That was the sound of me kissing my dear little blog after a week of not being able to access it.

Let me just use the power of the internet to say I am not happy with Google, who owns Blogger now. For the past week, every time I tried to log on to my blog, I got a message--from Google--that said they were working hard to restore my access; try again in a few hours.

Days went by--not hours--and no change. So I posted my issue on a Google/Blogger Help Forum and got no response.

More days went by--still no response from Google--and finally I figured out on my own that the issue might be that somehow Blogger thought I was my husband, because somehow his account has become linked with mine on my laptop, and I noticed his account was marked the default account. I kept signing in as a different user, but apparently it wasn't signing him out completely. After some poking around the internet, I ran across a list of Google products that do not support multiple users, and Blogger was on the list. After a bit more searching on how to change the default account, I was able to completely sign him out and log myself on, and finally--it worked!

What a relief!

It's making me think hard about transferring my blog to another platform, though. I've been happy with Blogger for a long time, but not with Google. I hate that Google links users--why?? I hate that with Google it's impossible to switch my primary email on my profile--I am stuck with an account I didn't even mean to create, never used, never will use. I hate that they link products--why do I have to sign in to Google to sign in to Blogger? And if my son comes along to check his Gmail account on my laptop one fine day, then I will have TWO other Google profiles linked to my account. And they have products--like Blogger--that get confused when you have multiple users!

Nope, not happy with Google. But thrilled to be able to access my blog again!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Settled

I do apologize to my blogging friends who are not also my Facebook friends--in all the press and pressure of the last couple weeks, I didn't even post a short update! But it has been less than a week since we heard, on the same day that we closed on our old house, that our offer was accepted! We will close July 11 on the house that I mentioned in my last post. It's weird--I still wonder what we are doing buying this house--but the experience has been like getting caught up in a river current carrying us inexorably in this direction, and along with that current of events has come a peace and reassurance that God is the one moving us along. The house doesn't seem like a final destination--it's more like getting started on the right road. I'm just eager to see where it leads!

So that's settled. We have a place to live, in just another month or so.

We are also getting settled into our generous friends' home. Papa Rooster and I have our own bedroom in the basement, and B23 and B15 are sharing a bedroom upstairs. Chicklet and B9 sleep on a huge couch in the basement family room, inches away from a wonderful Lego storage area and a Wii. (We've never had one, so this is like the best vacation condo ever to them.) We have our own full bathroom down in the basement, and I should mention that this basement has 9-foot ceilings and windows everywhere, so we couldn't be more comfortable. Two other generous families are hosting Blondechick21 and B19, separately, and they are happy and comfortable as well.

Now if I could just find everything! During that last week in our old house, it was so crazy. I kept having to drop everything to drive to a theater in Milwaukee an hour away for the show Chicklet was in and I was helping to direct. (If I had guessed that we would sell our house so quickly, I would never have agreed to be on the directing team--but it was a great experience, despite the awful timing!) At the end, others packed up all the stuff that you leave till last because you use it all the time, so of course that's the stuff I've been struggling to find. We were running out of boxes, too, so it got packed in laundry baskets, trash cans, duffel bags, etc. along with all the stuff no one knew what to do with. We weren't allowed to put household chemicals or food in storage, so we have all the household cleaners and toiletries from 5 bathrooms, plus the kitchen and laundry room, and boxes and garbage bags of pantry items to sort through as well--all in the garage and storage room at the house where we are staying.

Unpacking and repacking--that's my plan for this afternoon! And just in time, I hope, because the lady of the house is coming home from the hospital in the next 24 hours or so! She had to have a sudden abdominal surgery that has kept her there for nearly a week now. The one silver lining of the trial--which thankfully she can't really appreciate--was that she wasn't here for the worst of the invasion of her home.

So many people at our church, and neighbors and other friends too, have been so much help to us in the last month. People lent us boxes and brought us meals. They packed box after box. One woman--new to our church--cleaned all five bathrooms, God bless her!! Friends took our two youngest kids. They moved our furniture and many, many boxes into storage. On moving day, Blondechick put out the word to her classmates at the School of Worship, and a half dozen international students showed up to do much of the heavy lifting in exchange for pizza and Coke! They had such great attitudes and servants' hearts, and it seemed like God's timing because they were all killing time between graduation and their flights back to Switzerland and Germany. They didn't have jobs or school like the other young people that would have liked to help us out but couldn't on a Tuesday--we'll hit them up again in another month when we have to move it all one more time, but hey, it will be a fresh team! And there were those that spent the better part of a week helping us already...and will do it all again in a month, we know. We had friends still at the house with us at 1 a.m. when we carried out the last box. We are truly blessed...and so, so thankful.

But we are DONE. And as settled as we can be, for a few weeks--or nearly so!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sacrifice

There are sacrifices, and there are sacrifices.

When we first were presented with the idea that Papa Rooster might come on full-time at LOC in the next year, we prayed. We talked, we crunched numbers, we prayed some more, and we felt reasonably certain that the prudent thing would be to downsize. Our mortgage was our biggest monthly expense, and it seemed reasonable that we could find something else somewhere in Kenosha--not as big, not as nice--that could house our family of eight and still be the ministry center our home has always been. It would be a sacrifice, but God would provide, and it would be worth it.

That prudential wisdom was confirmed by PR feeling a strong sense of the Lord telling him "Sell the house now." We responded as quickly as we could, and when our house was almost ready, we put it up for sale by owner. We assumed we'd end up listing it, but if God wanted to save us money and bring us a buyer, we were giving Him a chance. And He did!

Selling our house was easy--way easier than we expected. But buying was a different story. As we began looking at houses, it became clear that it would not be easy to find something in the neighborhood near our church facility, which was our deep desire. It was also the prayer of many in our congregation, we discovered, independently, which kept confirming our own sense of call to that location. Earthly wisdom would say that a short drive away is still close, so we looked at a number of possible houses that were a little farther out, but they seemed all wrong. They were too far away. 
We felt God nudging us into a certain small radius from the church, in order to be where He wants us to be and to do the ministry He wants us to do. 

This was not the sacrifice I was prepared to make! I wanted lots of options to choose from. Instead, 
our list of possible homes shrank to nearly nothing. We had seen all six or seven properties available in that neighborhood, and they were either too big and expensive or too small for our family. I was really looking forward to downsizing and having a smaller, cozier home that would be easier to care for. Instead, it began looking more and more like we were going to have to buy something almost as big, that cost more than the house we are leaving. Could this really be what God wanted? And yet, He gave us peace and continual confirmation that indeed, He did.

Furthermore, thanks to miscalculation and miscommunication, instead of receiving a hefty tax refund as usual, we owed for the first time in twenty years--exactly the amount that we had in savings, which we had planned to use as a down payment along with our tax refund and whatever we make on the sale of our current house. That circumstance made us investigate whether we should take money out of our 401K for a down payment, in order to afford something in a higher price range. We talked to a CPA and crunched more numbers. By then we were wishing we had thought of this before we sold our house, but much as we hate to leave it, we knew that it wouldn't have been right to refinance and continue living in our current home. We felt a peace that God was very intentionally relocating us. That was what this move was about. To be where He wanted us, we might have to tap retirement funds in order to buy a more expensive house--a sacrifice of a different sort than we had planned.

We began to ask everyone we knew, including total strangers out gardening, if they knew of anyone in that neighborhood that might be interested in selling. We followed up on several leads. One that kept coming up was this one house whose owner had passed away. It wasn't for sale, as far as we knew, and if it were, it would be too expensive. It was really close to our church facility though--the location was perfect. If it were to come available, we would have to seriously consider it.

Jumping ahead a bit, it did become available for us to see, though it is not on the market, and it has become clear to us that God wants us to pursue this house. We brought friends, family and church leaders with us into three very different houses, of different sizes and price points, and there was nearly unanimous agreement that neither of the other two were "it." This house, however, feels special, and some of our leaders felt clearly that this house was connected to God's mission for Light of Christ, as well as for our family. No one can draw a diagram on a napkin to explain it, but that conviction just won't go away, even as we consider the difficulties of buying this house. 

Because it will be expensive to buy and make livable for our family. It is honestly not the ideal house for us. There are two other comparably priced properties available which could work as well and have been fully updated--why not buy one of them instead? It's been a sacrifice for me to turn my back on them. It doesn't make sense on an earthly level. It's kind of another sacrifice--not to be able to explain rationally why we should spend money this way, when it goes against every grain of my frugal, common-sense being.

We are going to make an offer and see what God will do. We invite you to pray with us!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Holy Week Report



My heart is so full! What a glorious Holy Week it was.

This year, I don't have a lot of time or pictures, since we didn't have a photographer at any of the services, so I can't do the kind of picture post I've done in previous years. Instead, I am just going to let the words of others speak for me. These were all collected from social media, so I am trusting that their authors don't mind. (If anybody wants credit, let me know. :)


Attended my first Easter Vigil last night at Light Of Christ. Loved it!!! Next year I think we are going to make attending Light of Christ for all of Holy Week a priority!


Wow! What a wonderful Easter Vigil service! Jumpin' priests, clappin' deacons...and bells and alleluias everywhere! Praise God for his love and mercy!


Here's a little video of what she's referring to, when the whole congregation acclaims "Alleluia! The Lord is risen!" and bursts forth with a "Holy Noise":


video


Easter Vigil at Light of Christ is always a powerful experience, and last night was no exception. Particularly moving to me was to witness the baptism of a girl who recently came to faith. Charlotte Mason wrote, "What a thought of joy at the baptismal font, of consolation throughout life amid the tossing of the waves of this troublesome world, is this of the divine Spirit coming to us, also, in the likeness of a dove." The divine Spirit came last night - in the baptism, in the prayers, and in the worship. I know I did not bring Him - I found Him there. He brought to my mind a vivid remembrance of the day when I was 16 years of age, sitting in my room, and I came to faith. What an indescribable gift, and one that is renewed every day.

The little girl referred to is Chicket's friend. What a beautiful moment. It was so wonderful to have her whole family there!

Every Easter Vigil is wonderful. Each one has its own golden moments. Last Saturday was no exception.



This year we had welcome gifts for visitors!

The altar on Easter Sunday morning

Here is the teaser video I put up on Facebook of my two sons in rehearsal for the Ezekiel reading, in the valley of the Dry Bones:

video


And here is a little more. Let's just say that when they actually gave the reading, B18 had a black folder in hand, not an iPhone...!

video


I wish I had recorded snippets of others. All went so well. I was so pleased!


Finally, this moving excerpt from a parishioner's journal about a previous Good Friday service at our church. I loved it because I had a similar sense of joy and love fill me this year at the veneration of the cross, when we place the cross on the ground and invite everyone to come forward and pray, with their hand or head upon it.

"_________ preached. He stressed how Christ paid for us completely, with no merit or contribution from us. Normally at Good Friday, I feel that I am to feel sorrow for Christ's suffering, or sorrow for my sin. I feel that I am to be somehow sad, dressed in black.

"At the veneration of the cross, I walked up to the cross, knelt down by it, and touched my head to it. I was at the base of the cross. In my mind's eye I looked up towards the top of the cross. I saw the cross not against the rug but against a clear blue sky with sunlight streaming around it.

"The music started. Instead of sorrowful tunes, it was a light and happy piece. I felt the joy well up in me that was supposed to be reserved for Easter. Good Friday is the black and sad day, but I felt warmth and joy. The sunlight from my image of the cross seemed to radiate directly to my heart. I felt as if Christ’s love was complete. I held up my hand to receive the streaming light. I remembered my confession from today. I felt the light stream back to the situations where I had sinned. I felt Christ’s mercy wash over me and cover each of those sins completely.

"__________ sang Rock of Ages. The joy and delight in my heart was complete. It was in the cross that I found the perfect joy of Christ’s love. I understand now why Catherine [of Siena] said that this love should motivate us to serve God completely – she basked in that love every day.

"Then we said the confession. My normal mood is to focus on sorrow for sin and humility. I make myself feel sorry for my sins. I wear it like a weight, like pouring ashes over myself. Suddenly the words of the confession seemed to light up on the page, as if the letters were actually in gold. The words were pure joy. I saw that I was 'lucky' to pray this prayer. It was a feeling of good fortune. It was like winning the lottTery – to say these words was to enter into the fullness of Christ’s love and mercy. I wanted to laugh. I almost whispered the words. Confession as the sweet and joyous pleasure – because by being nothing, I had the great reward – Christ and His love.

"The images were so real to me – I knew I had consolation from God. I knew I would forget it – so I had to write it down."


If anyone else wants to draw my attention to a social media posting that I missed, or send me their impressions, I would gladly add them!

Wish I had time to write more. We had so many little hitches in the first part of the Easter Vigil service, for example, but Father Rooster took lemons and made lemonade with them in his wonderful Vigil homily. Even the mistakes gave glory to God!


Praise Jesus! He is risen, and by his stripes, we are healed!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

House Update: The Long Version

Where to start??

Everything has happened so fast!

The story so far:  Anticipating that Papa Rooster would be able to quit his sales/consulting/executive job and become full-time priest at Light of Christ sometime in the next year, we crunched some numbers and realized we needed to downsize in order to live on a much smaller salary. Even with all six kids presently living at home, four of them are 15 or over, so while downsizing may be cramp us all a bit in the short term, it seems reasonable for long-term living. It wasn't a decision based on numbers alone; we also felt like God was asking us to do it, which was the more important thing in our minds.

That was last year, and our target date to put the house up for sale was mid-March. Our hope and prayer was that the whole transition would go quickly and we'd be done selling, buying and moving early enough to still have a summer left over! We had our basement family room and two bedrooms repainted. I spent many hours spackling and touching up the paint in high-traffic areas. In February, a team of women from church helped wash walls, windows, woodwork, light switches and more. We had the carpets cleaned, and then while we were waiting for mid-March to arrive, I decided to post the house on Craigslist, just to see what might happen. Then someone told me you could list your house on Zillow, as a for sale by owner, so I did that too.

And we started having a few showings. First friends or friends-of-friends, none of whom were really ready to buy. Then we had several that came from agents who had seen it on Zillow. Our date in mid-March had arrived, and I was anxious about whether to go ahead and list it as scheduled with our realtor. The pace of the showings we were getting was so manageable, and both Papa Rooster and I were dreading listing it because we knew there would probably be a lot of showings on it initially, and all the activity of constantly cleaning and leaving just felt so out-of-synch with what we were calling everyone at Light of Christ to do during Lent--which was to enter into the season not with activity, but with increased time given to prayer and listening. We envisioned this as a "first chapter," a way to for our congregation to prepare for the next season, or "second chapter," after Lent when the leadership would begin to take more action toward figuring out how to bring Father Rooster on full-time.

But God moved faster than expected and brought us two offers at once, just three weeks after we listed the house on Zillow. One was for our full price, but had a home sale contingency; we negotiated with the other buyers and ended up settling on a price just under our asking price.

It all happened so fast that our hearts and minds could barely keep up. Suddenly we weren't sure about selling! Had we heard wrong? Were we really supposed to give up this house? We called on others to lift us up in prayer, and we started hearing back some great words of reassurance. "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." "Watch...watch what I am about to do, unfolding the plan that is already secure." "It is the offering up of your 5 loaves and 2 fishes...all that you had to feed yourself...a costly sacrifice, but watch what God will do with it!" We even found confirmation on the lips of our neighbor, the realtor we were going to list with, who said, "You really got that divine intervention thing goin' on, because let me tell you, NOBODY gets two offers at once and gets basically the asking price on their house just 3 weeks into a FSBO! That just NEVER happens. God must really be lookin' out for you!"

(Later, we began to wonder if we had not set our price high enough, even though it seems we did very well, but the interesting thing is that I didn't change anything on Zillow--nothing indicates that the house is under contract--and we have not had even one more inquiry since the day the buyers came through. Another confirmation, it seems, that God did it.)

So we have begun looking at houses. Papa Rooster and others in our church feel strongly that our next house will be in the same neighborhood as the Kemper Center, where our church meets--not just a 5 minutes' car ride near, but walking distance. Narrowing the neighborhood down that much makes this a pretty tall order for God to fill! The Kemper Center is right on Lake Michigan, so we can't look east of it at all. To the north just a few blocks is the commercial district of downtown. Most of our options lie west or south of it in what is called the historic district: Big old showplaces that need work, are overpriced and have really high taxes because they are so near the lake, or small bungalows, cottages or Victorians that need work, have high taxes and are too small for our family. Moderately sized, moderately priced homes are largely unavailable in this area.

We found one that we seriously considered for a couple days. It would have been quite a snug fit for all of us but it was doable because it had one thing that hardly any homes in this area have--a dry, square, finishable basement. We could have added two more bedrooms and a small office in the basement, and still kept the large family room that was already finished there. Plus there were three decent size bedrooms above ground, a kitchen beyond what I could ever have asked for or imagined, a 3-season sunroom, a gorgeous living room with hardwood floors and lots of windows, exactly what our ideal living room would look like, an attached garage (another thing that you just don't get in the historic district), two beautifully re-done full bathrooms...all on just a bit smaller scale than Papa Rooster was comfortable with. We invited friends from church to come, especially to look at the basement with us and make sure it was finishable as we wanted--which it was--but they all said they had trouble seeing us there; they thought it was just too small, and the layout didn't open it up enough on the main floor.

It was hard for me to accept, even though God actually woke me up and spoke to me in the middle of the night--even before our friends weighed in--telling me that this house was an Ishmael. I knew it was Him, I knew I was going to have to accept it, but when I woke up in the morning, I really struggled. I can totally believe that we can find something bigger, but I struggle to believe that we will find something bigger that is still affordable on a pastor's salary, and this house was already on the way upper end of affordable. And doggone it, even if this house was an Ishmael--not God's chosen way of providing for us, just as Abraham's son with Sarah's maid Hagar was not the son God had promised--it was an Ishmael I could totally love and be happy in! Our kids were so disappointed too. So many neat things about the corner lot and yard, the location, and the many charms of the house.

We have basically looked at all possibilities in the area now, and all we can do is wait for something new to come on the market. Thankfully, it's still early in the selling season, which seems to have been delayed this year because of the hard winter. Our closing date, when we have to have all our belongings out of our house, looms just six weeks from today. It's been so difficult for me to even think about packing, since I don't know where we and our stuff are headed next. Friends have offered to put us all up in their home for a transition time of a few weeks, but where should we store all our stuff--short-term, or long-term? Will we end up needing to rent something for a while? What to store, what to get rid of, what can be inaccessible indefinitely, what will we need access to?

So I haven't began packing, really. It's Holy Week, and Father Rooster and I are doing our best to push house worries away and enter into the journey, which began last night with a beautiful Maundy Thursday service. We washed each other's feet, and I am grateful to say that he has handled my conflicting emotions and disappointment so well, in a way that has pulled me closer to him rather than separating us. He's had a sense all along that we wouldn't find our next house before Easter, and I am doing my best to trust and have faith.

Today, we have a Stations of the Cross service this afternoon, and a Good Friday service tonight. Tomorrow, I have a full morning of final run-throughs and sound checks for the Easter Vigil readings that I am directing. I think they are all going to be really good again this year, and not because everything is super well-rehearsed--it's not--but I can just sense that the Holy Spirit is going to fill each one beyond what we have rehearsed or can give in our own abilities! Plenty of cracks for Him to fill in. :)

I am also excited that Chicklet's friend, mentioned in the last post, is being baptized at the Vigil, and her whole family is coming! Her mom came with her to Palm Sunday last week and really enjoyed it. We really loved their family; we got to know them better when we had them over to discuss the baptism. We all agreed that our daughters' friendship has been such a special thing for both of them--they are two sweet peas in a pod! A big bummer for the two of them that we are moving. We will have to go to extra lengths to get them together. 

A blessed Holy Weekend to all!